Articles | Volume 24, issue 1
Research article
28 Feb 2017
Research article |  | 28 Feb 2017

A matrix clustering method to explore patterns of land-cover transitions in satellite-derived maps of the Brazilian Amazon

Finn Müller-Hansen, Manoel F. Cardoso, Eloi L. Dalla-Nora, Jonathan F. Donges, Jobst Heitzig, Jürgen Kurths, and Kirsten Thonicke

Abstract. Changes in land-use systems in tropical regions, including deforestation, are a key challenge for global sustainability because of their huge impacts on green-house gas emissions, local climate and biodiversity. However, the dynamics of land-use and land-cover change in regions of frontier expansion such as the Brazilian Amazon are not yet well understood because of the complex interplay of ecological and socioeconomic drivers. In this paper, we combine Markov chain analysis and complex network methods to identify regimes of land-cover dynamics from land-cover maps (TerraClass) derived from high-resolution (30 m) satellite imagery. We estimate regional transition probabilities between different land-cover types and use clustering analysis and community detection algorithms on similarity networks to explore patterns of dominant land-cover transitions. We find that land-cover transition probabilities in the Brazilian Amazon are heterogeneous in space, and adjacent subregions tend to be assigned to the same clusters. When focusing on transitions from single land-cover types, we uncover patterns that reflect major regional differences in land-cover dynamics. Our method is able to summarize regional patterns and thus complements studies performed at the local scale.

Short summary
Deforestation and subsequent land uses in the Brazilian Amazon have huge impacts on greenhouse gas emissions, local climate and biodiversity. To better understand these land-cover changes, we apply complex systems methods uncovering spatial patterns in regional transition probabilities between land-cover types, which we estimate using maps derived from satellite imagery. The results show clusters of similar land-cover dynamics and thus complement studies at the local scale.